Card Meaning: IX The Hermit

The Hermit
Element: Earth
Zodiac: Virgo
Hebrew letter: Yod, י


 The Hermit card ends one subcycle within the Major Arcana.  The Fool begins his voyage, enters the external world, finds the secrets, gains abundance, finds discipline, gets knowledge, desires push him through the fall, he starts to battle his way back, gains strength to do so, and finally takes some time in solace and seclusion to integrate the lessons before he embarks on a new upward spiral of coming back home. This card is beggining of actualization of spiritual life, The Hermit gains inner knowledge through inspiration and introspection. Self-realization and self-reflection are the main leitmotifs in this card. Silent loneliness is maybe not as popular as some other, more mundane things but there is no listening to your inner voice while hearing the noise of outer world. The Hermit is at stage when no other human being can't help him, he must rely on his own inner voice. He is a long way from completness though, but lessons from the first nine cards are starting to take a root. He takes it one step further and even directs aspirants as a beacon with the light he holds. The Hermit's solace has its purpose and meaning, it is pursuit of the knowledge and wisdom that took him high on the mountain, otherwise it would just be a runaway. For the solace to have a meaning, The Hermit had to learn the lessons from the past cards in the Major Arcana. The letter for this card is Yod (open hand), this card can be interpreted as an invitation to the next stage of our developement.


An old hermit used to walk around the village day and night with a lit lantern. He was asked what is he doing, He answered that he is searching for honest man. The hermit's name was Diogenes of Sinope and was a kind of blueprint for some versions of The Hermit card.  The Tarot de Marseille named it L’Hermite (The Hermit). He is porteyed as a old, cloaked man with the stick in his left hand and a lantern in his right hand.  He is probing the ground with his stick as he walks. The earliest known list of the Trumps (Sermones de Ludo Cum Aliis) calls this card El Gobbo (The Hunchback). The Visconti-Sforza Tarot depicts him as an elderly man with a long, white beard. He leans on a stick with his left hand and holds in his right hand an hourglass, symbolising the fleeing of time. Some Italian decks calls the card Il Vecchio (The Old Man) and Il Tempo (Time). The depiction of the winged hermit is characteristic of the Bologna Tarot and Tarocchino di Mitelli. The winged hermit is projection of the Father Time. Beacuse of his age, stature and symbolism he is often considered as a fourth cardinal virtue in Tarot - the Prudence. The other three are clearly identified, Temperance, Justice and  Strength.  


This card can indicate a need for solace, maybe time to reconsider things and listen to one's own inner voice. Silent contemplation can indicate a solution to a problem. Illumination and self-knowledge are a step closer with this card. The Hermit serves to achive spiritual consciousness. If there is a great deal of activity in situation, The Hermit can stand for a point of balance in midst of a chaos. Do not make a hasty decision and only listen advices of the wise people. The Hermit indicates a time of convalescence and rest. The card also stands for seekings of all kind. Negative aspects include disconnection from oneself, arrogance and obstinacy. Also a refusal of a good advice. Don't be impatient.

divine light, lantern, headdress, staff

  This is first time to see a human source of light, the hermit's lantern. Untill now there was the Sun and the stars as a symbols of divine guidance. Now, we have a card where the human being is in position to pass the knowledge and advice. It is the end of a subcycle that begun with The Fool. In a sense, it is time to get back home. The Hermit is standing high, on the icy peaks that was already portayed in The Fool, The Lovers and the Strength. It is the same mountain. He is looking downwards while holding the lantern in his hand. Obviously he is not holding lantern beacuse of himself, since he is already on the top of the mountain, but to light the way for others to where he already is. A very clear symbol of a teacher, but not one like The Hierophant who is kind of a representative of a religious structure, but a spiritual voice inside oneself. For this to become actual in our lives, we need time, so, no wonder The Hermit is depicted ancient. The Star of David is in the lantern. We can divide this symbol on two triangles, one pointing upwards indicating the spirit and the other pointing downwards indicating the world. As is above, so is below. Two triangles holds 360 degrees.

  A symbol of all four directions and the creation itself. The cross sum of 360 is number nine, the number of The Hermit. The astrological sign of Virgo depicts The Hermit, virginity and solitude are thus labels of this card. His hood is shaped like Hebrew letter Yod. Yod is first letter of God's name - YHVH. The Yod, symbol of the divine creative controlling intelligence, shows where is The Hermit on the spiritual ladder, still standing on material plane as the mortal man, but in touch with the mind of God. This is indication of lessons already learned but also a warning that he is far from the end. Again, there is a wand in the picture, perspicuous symbol of spirit already seen in the former cards of Major Arcana.

The variation from the conventional models in this card is only that the lamp is not enveloped partially in the mantle of its bearer, who blends the idea of the Ancient of Days with the Light of the World It is a star which shines in the lantern. I have said that this is a card of attainment, and to extend this conception the figure is seen holding up his beacon on an eminence. Therefore the Hermit is not, as Court de Gebelin explained, a wise man in search of truth and justice; nor is he, as a later explanation proposes, an especial example of experience. His beacon intimates that "where I am, you also may be."

It is further a card which is understood quite incorrectly when it is connected with the idea of occult isolation, as the protection of personal magnetism against admixture. This is one of the frivolous renderings which we owe to Éliphas Lévi. It has been adopted by the French Order of Martinism and some of us have heard a great deal of the Silent and Unknown Philosophy enveloped by his mantle from the knowledge of the profane. In true Martinism, the significance of the term Philosophe inconnu was of another order. It did not refer to the intended concealment of the Instituted Mysteries, much less of their substitutes, but--like the card itself--to the truth that the Divine Mysteries secure their own protection from those who are unprepared.


The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, by A.E. Waite

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